THE Clean Development Mechanism: Making it Operational

Research paper by Matthew Mendis, Keith Openshaw

Indexed on: 01 Mar '04Published on: 01 Mar '04Published in: Environment, Development and Sustainability


The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is a facility for trading `certified emission reductions (CERs) between developing and developed countries, thus saving non-renewable carbon emissions by promoting renewable energy, energy efficiency and/or carbon sequestration projects in LDC's. The purpose of the CDM is to help these latter countries meet their obligations under the Kyoto Protocol while at the same time promoting “sustainable” development in the former countries, thereby reducing the build-up of greenhouse gases (GHG). This paper examines the progress in achieving a workable CDM in time for the first commitment period (2008–2012), and the kinds of initiatives that can be pursued in the agricultural, land-use and forestry sector in tropical countries.The critical element for the success of the CDM is the participation of a broad cross-section of buyers (ultimately from developed countries) and sellers (from developing countries) of CERs. Trading is the final step, which starts with project formulation, through successful implementation and then certification. This paper lays out a market-based framework for promoting CDM transactions between private sector project developers and traders and public sector policy makers, with regulators, governed by CDM rules, overseeing the smooth running of the CDM. However, as there are numerous players; it is proposed that trial CDM projects be demonstrated with the support of National/International bodies to iron out the problems and come up with practical solutions so that carbon trading can become a reality.Most rules for the CDM were clarified at the 7th Conference of Parties (CP) in October/November of 2001 in Marrakesh. An executive Board (EB) was appointed and this EB is in charge of proposing workable ground rules to promote the CDM. These have to be submitted for approval by the 8th CP in late 2002. Three broad kinds of projects qualify for the CDM, these are: renewable energy projects that will be alternatives to fossil fuel projects; sequestration projects that offset GHG emissions; and energy efficient projects that will decrease the emissions of GHG. It is possible to have a combination of these initiatives. A fourth type covering GHG reduction is omitted. As elaborated in the text, in order to qualify for the CDM, the proposed projects may have to have additional costs when compared to the alternative(s). Two time frames have been agreed for CDM projects to qualify for the first commitment period, namely 7 years (with an option of two 7-year renewals) and 10 years. Also, for land-use, land-use change and forestry projects only afforestation/reforestation initiatives are recognized as being permissible for the first commitment period. These rules seem rather shortsighted, as forestry and/or renewable energy projects usually require more than 21 years to be fully effective. Also, the major cause of deforestation is clearing land for agriculture, not harvesting wood. Therefore, improving agricultural productivity may be the best way to reduce deforestation and its subsequent release of GHGs. These conditionalities should be re-examined when rules for the second commitment period are decided. However, various agricultural and land-use projects are discussed under the existing guidelines which could qualify as CDM projects in the first period.